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CFU chief Robert Osbourn voices cautious optimism about Cambridge United's vision

Plans for a new Cambridge United stadium. Pictures: KSS/Cambridge United (23148303)
Plans for a new Cambridge United stadium. Pictures: KSS/Cambridge United (23148303)

Robert Osbourn has voiced cautious optimism about Cambridge United’s vision for a new stadium.

Last week, U’s chief executive Ian Mather unveiled a concept for a new home for the club, which would be near junction 35, Stow cum Quy, of the A14, and a couple of miles from their Abbey Stadium.

It would be part of the larger development of the eastern fringe of the city, with the site identified with Marshall and Cambridgeshire County Council for a 12-000 seater stadium on green belt land owned by the local authority.

It could also be a hub for future transport plans for the city, linking with the possible relocation of the Newmarket Park & Ride and the ambitious plans for the CAM Metro.

There have been numerous false dawns in United’s search for a new home in the past, and Cambridge Fans United chairman Osbourn is keen to see how these plans develop.

“I think as much as Ian Mather said at the fans’ forum, the big question I suppose is, is it going to happen this time?” he said.

“What’s different this time to the other times where we’ve had plans to do this or do that and they have drifted away or whatever.

“I think if you look at it dispassionately and put aside any notions that people have or nostalgia for the Abbey, and of course people will have that as we’ve all been to so many matches there and it’s our home, it’s in a state that’s not going to be fit for purpose in a few years’ time.

“We’ve got supporters helping Ian (Darler) and Mick (Brown) to keep it up to scratch and safety standards, but realistically it’s not a long-term destination.

“You have to look at alternatives that provide you with the opportunity of getting income so you’re not just dependent on the likes of Paul Barry saying I will guarantee five years of financial support.

“You’ve got to look to the future to see what you can do that’s better than what you have.”

Propery consultancy Stace and world-leading architects KSS have helped to develop the initial design for a new stadium.

And Osbourn has certainly been encouraged by vision of the scheme presented by the U’s.

“I am quite impressed by it,” he said.

“The schematic drawings that have been put out are only a rough idea of the sorts of opportunities there might be, given the likelihood that it’s going to be five to 10 years at least before you actually get the thing done.

“Those things are bound to develop and change, and partly that will depend I guess on what other elements go into the development.

“Key to it all I think is not just having a football ground where you just play football a few times in the year, but you create something right next to the moved Park & Ride that attracts people in all sorts of ways.

“I know Ian has talked about a doctors surgery or a health centre where people will be there on a regular basis and it provides a source of income.”

Some supporters have questioned the site being outside the city’s current boundaries, although this would change with the development on the eastern fringes.

“There isn’t anywhere within the town boundaries really that you could put the sort of devevlopment that you want,” said Osbourn.

“What we don’t want is a very basic, cheap tin and metal cladding [stadium] somewhere you just put a pitch in the middle of.

“What we’re talking about here is actually something that is going to be eco-friendly, well thought out and a well-designed development.

“It’s not going to be quite along the lines of White Hart Lane but it’s something that needs to sit within the environment and also provide all of the things that football fans need.”

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